The One gets bonus points for each Mob member they eliminate, and once they've knocked out 30 or more they'll be offered a prize. At this point the contestant can choose to take what they're offered, or play on and try for something better. If they beat all 100 opponents they get a super-nice prize; if they slip up then the winnings go to everyone left in the mob. In the beta test I got to try, prizes tended to comprise of a mixture of Microsoft Points and a free Arcade game (apparently this will change on a week by week basis).
To help them on their quest, The One gets access to three Millionaire-style lifelines - one of which involves going with whichever answer was most popular with The Crowd. Aside from this brief interaction, The Crowd essentially acts as a play-along audience. You play along, answering questions as quickly as possible, and hope that you get picked for a better role in the next round. If you're in The Mob or The Crowd you'll get bonus marks for answering quickly, but essentially these points merely serve to (slightly) increase your odds of being selected for a good position in the future. There's still an element of randomness to selection, however, so everyone who watches the show has a chance to be chosen; your personal records are also wiped at the start of each week, leaving everyone to improve their odds from a clean slate.
My hands-on with 1 v 100 took the form of the first European beta test of the game, during which I played with a multitude of fellow hacks from around the continent. There was a tongue-in-cheek groan from the press at Microsoft's London office when we were told that there would be no prizes for our demo, but this didn't seem to stop people from getting quite competitive. Most of our questions seemed to be based around UK pop culture - "Who is Tess Daly married to?" "What's the name of the pub in Emmerdale - with the odd bit of politics and general knowledge thrown in for good measure. The difficulty level seemed to be pitched at a relatively fair level, and even if you're clueless you've got a one in three chance of blagging the answer.
Aside from the fact that there's real loot to be had, it's the live factor that makes 1 vs 100 such an interesting proposition. Mr McCourt is the kind of sunny personality we're all used to seeing on the TV, but it's quite odd to have him in the world of videogames. He doesn't scream obscenities at you, call you a noob or question your sexuality; instead he's a friendly host who gives the show a pleasantly sunny exterior - he'll even give shout outs to people who email the studio during a show. Naturally, there's also a touch of that familiar Quiz Show feeling that what you're watching is shallow Entertainment Lite - particularly when the show cuts to an ad break between segments. Our demo merely featured placeholder images, but the final beta will have genuine video commercials to work dark consumer voodoo upon your subtly-weakened subconscious.
Never mind - at least there's shiny stuff and MS Points to be won! To be honest, I think few people could argue that 1 vs 100 is anything other than a very savvy move from Microsoft. The game itself is free (to Gold users) and could easily pick up massive audiences, earning the company plenty of advertising income; at the same time the users won't mind much because it's fun and offers a shot at winning stuff. The only stumbling block I can foresee is that it's probably not that much fun to be stuck in The Crowd, and you'll presumably need to spend a lot of time here to stand any chance of landing a better position. Still, it's a gamble you're getting for gratis. What more could you ask for?
1 vs 100 will launch it first beta on Xbox LIVE in late spring.